The Barclay incident with the benefit of some reflection

Karl du Fresne observes

It was several days before Fairfax political editor Tracy Watkins and Jane Clifton in the Listener weighed in with more nuanced accounts of the affair.

Reading Watkins’ article last Saturday, it was obvious that Barclay had a lot of National MPs, including one or two heavy hitters, on his side. He wasn’t hung out to dry, as he undoubtedly would have been if he was regarded as not worth the time of day.

You could also see how the mess had happened. Stolid, phlegmatic Bill English had been succeeded after 18 years as electorate MP by an apparently brash young upstart who, although born in Dipton and raised in Gore, bore the imprint of a man whose preferred habitats were hedonistic Queenstown and power-obsessed Wellington.

Factor in an electorate stalwart who had been running English’s Gore office for more than a decade, and who apparently had her own way of doing things, and you had a situation ripe for friction. With English away in Wellington much of the time due to his leadership obligations, she was often left to run the show and was very likely a centre of power in her own right. Small wonder that things turned ugly.

To anyone reading Watkins’ and Clifton’s accounts, it clearly wasn’t a simple case of an arrogant young man spitting the dummy because he couldn’t have his own way. It was far more complicated than that.

Barclay’s big mistake, of course, was to secretly record office conversations, presumably with the aim of uncovering disloyalty. In any circumstances it would have been underhand. Unfortunately it was also illegal.

And what made matters immeasurably worse was that his boss was drawn into the imbroglio and then seriously messed things up by not being straight with the media. Fatal.

Even so, you have to wonder how much impact all this had on the public. The press gallery got very excited, as it always does when it sniffs blood, but you sensed that people out in Voter Land wondered what all the fuss was about. It didn’t help that much of the media coverage was confused and confusing.

This hasn’t affected National’s support in the polls.  What  it has achieved however is that in the deep south the political rift between old and new is now irreconcilable.  The old guard, the Evil Six and their patsies on the Board as well as the Prime Minister do not control the fate of the electorate.

Both sides of the conflict know that if Todd Barclay changes his mind and stands for re-selection, he would be right back in there because the support for him, and the hatred for Bill’s underhandedness runs deep.

So deep is the hatred of the Evil Six that they and their faction of about 20 people still think they can insert Simon Flood into the process.  After all, they are clearly winning, aren’t they?  Aren’t they?

 

Karl du Fresne


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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